"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Chapter Nine: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in the Purity of His Motivation | Main | Can a true Christian fall from grace? Pastor John Samson »

    The Emergent Church and the Gospel

    A simple reading of the Bible will reveal that the gospel is not about what we have done for Jesus, but what Jesus has done for us (Rom 5:19, 2 Cor 5:21, Phil 2:8). The mystery of God has been made manifest in the Person and work of the Son, who frees prisoners, gives sight to the blind, breaks loose our chains and changes hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. At one time we were taken captive to do Satan's will and could not escape until Christ set us free. In other words, Christ did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He lived the perfect life that we should have lived and died the death we should have died, in order to free us so that we might then proclaim His excellencies, make known his gospel and spread justice and mercy to the poor.

    But this is not what many of the the most notable characters in the Emerging church (e.g. McClaren, McManus, Bell) mean when they use the term “gospel”; for Christ, in their view, did not primarily come to us as a Savior, who delivers us from His just wrath, but rather, He came to make us "Christ followers". In other words, Jesus came as a moral example of how we might live, treat one another, and form communities. But as has been repeatedly shown throughout the testaments, this is a recipe for failure. In Romans 3:20 the Apostle teaches that the purpose of the law was not so much to show us how to live (although it was that too), but more importantly, to reveal our moral inability and hopeless bondage to sin in the face of God's holy majesty apart from the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Some major voices in the emergent church are saying they want a relationship with Jesus and not doctrines, but we must ask which Jesus do they want to have a relationship with? If words mean anything it appears they want a relationship with a moralistic Jesus of their own imagination. They want to believe that God is pleased with us because of what we do ... that He is pleased with us if we join Him in being active in crusades against social ills such as corporate greed, global warming, racism and poverty. That doing this is what the Gospel is all about. But as good as some of these things might be, God is not pleased with them if they do not come from faith in Jesus Christ as a Savior first, not as a mere example for us to follow. The background of the true gospel is that Jesus revealed His sinlessness and our moral impotence and bankruptcy in the face of his holiness. Thus our need for His mercy. But McLaren and many of the other emergent church leaders trumpet their belief that the gospel is more about ethics than the work of Christ on our behalf. They appeal to bettering the world around us as a task that is opposed to and more pressing than seeing our own rebellion and poverty, which prove our need for reconciliation to God through the life, death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. This unbiblical bifurcation of orthopraxy and orthodoxy, and foundational preference for the former, is just plain contrary to the Christian gospel.

    Ultimately, the emergent "gospel" is not about the grace of Jesus Christ who delivers people from the wrath of God and puts them into the kingdom of light, but rather about becoming a 'Jesus follower', about walking as Jesus walked and trying to live the life he exemplified. Apart from the fact that, according to Scripture, this is an impossible goal when drawing from our native resources, but it misses the whole point for which Jesus came. The gospels showed Jesus setting his face like flint toward Jerusalem for a reason. He did not come primarily to be a moral example for us, but to become a Savior who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. The emergent ideology, in other words, is appealing to the fallen will without the merciful act that God has done for us in Jesus. Since we woefully fall short of God's call to us to live this way, it offers no hope.

    In his book, Why We're Not Emergent, Kevin DeYoung says, "I am convinced that a major problem with the emerging church is that they refuse to have their cake and eat it too. The whole movement seems to be built on reductionistic, even modernistic, either-or categories. They pit information versus transformation, believing versus belonging, and propositions about Christ versus the person of Christ. The emerging church will be a helpful corrective against real, and sometimes perceived, abuses in evangelicalism when they discover the genius of the "and," and stop forcing us to accept half-truths."

    My fear, and I believe it is well founded, is that Emergent (and emerging) is just a newly cast form of the old Semi-Pelagian heresy of behavior modification, or to put it bluntly, moralism. The most tragic "either-or" category they have set up for themselves is this: faith in Christ as a Savior versus following Christ as an example. Many of its leading proponents assert that right living leads to right doctrine, thus reversing the Biblical priority of grace. But ethics are not what make Christianity to differ from other world religions. All world religions offer ethical programs that are remarkably similar to ours. But ethics/morals don't bring us into relationship with God unless you can perfectly keep them (James 2:10, Gal 3:10-12). In that case, you might need a helper, but you certainly don't need a Savior. What makes Christianity to differ is that it is the only way which acknowledges that its own adherents are rebels and without hope in themselves, that is, apart from the sovereign mercy of their Head, who procured salvation for them. All other religions rely on moral improvement and good works, but Christ has shown us that "there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." (Ecc 7:20) Trusting in Jesus as a moral example alone, trusting in our good works and the social justice we do, simply makes Jesus' Person and work of no effect, for we are ascribing the power to do those things to ourselves apart from His redeeming us. Thus it would appear that both the emergent and seeker sensitive churches are cut from the same moralistic cloth. If you are a young person considering either of these, remember that seeing Christ as merely an example and seeing church as a place to hear stories about how we are to live, apart from the new birth, is a man-centered and not a Christ-centered message and should be steered clear of as you would a poisonous viper.

    J.W. Hendryx

    Posted by John on March 24, 2010 04:35 PM


    It shocks me when people who say they are Christians lead other people astray with a gospel that is not the true gospel. Yes, we are to follow the example of Christ, but that is done after the Holy Spirit does His work of regeneration in our lives after we have put our faith in Jesus. I wish more and more Christians will see these false teachers along with the prosperity gospel for who they really are.

    "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:9, ESV).

    I pray for a relationship
    with God above all, THROUGH
    Jesus Christ.

    "Soli Deo Gloria"

    I like what you say about Christ
    doing for us what we cannot do
    for ourselves.


    (This was posted in another place by mistake.)

    There is a wealth of information on just about every aspect of the emergent church. However, there is one in particular I have yet to see addressed - their music. Are there musical groups who have bought in to and, by their trade, propagate the emergent church philosophy? We're told not to judge a book by its cover, but when I see "christian" music groups with names like "Mute Math" and "Skillet", I have to raise the question. It is no secret that people are easily swayed by what they hear. Music seems to be the perfet avenue by which a skewed doctrine (emergent or otherwise) can become that seed of doubt that is planted - much like the serpent's question to Eve. I am much more vigilant about what drifts into my head on the gentle tide of a catchy song than I have been in the past - not only mine but my impressionable 12-year old son. We must be very cautious of this masquerading angel.

    Amen!Thank you for this short article! Very concise and useful, and good for sharing with friends...who are not Christ-centered and do not truly make the clear distinction between the True Gospel and 'other gospels'
    Thank you brother!

    In Christ,

    Heard this story on NPR this morning:

    McLaren is moving full steam toward pluralism and universalism. It's sad that so many young people are following this horrid false teacher.

    tk s for the teaching ..the false and true gospel... the power is in the blood [ jesus - christ death ] not in ourselve..or deeds of any kinds..yes the natural man wants to do and elevate himselve by doing something..FAITH in CHRIST is the end of trying to do... resting state ..eternal salvation without work of our own... EPHESIANS 2: 8 it is the gift of GOD verse 9 not of works, lest any man should boast.

    What do I do when I see my church moving into the emergent church mould? I have taken a lot of slack for this, but i stand by it. Beth Moore is by her own admission a proponet of contemplative prayer.In her book When Godly People do Ungodly things, page 110 she writes, I have picked up on the termonology of Brother lawrence,(Manning) who called praying unceasingly 'practicing God's presence.' Google 'Lawrence manning' and 'practicing God's presence'. This is very Hindu. Beth is a great motivatioal speaker, but listen carfully and you will hear more pick-me-up words than gospel. She also surrounds herself with emergent church names. She is being simulcast at my church soon. I fear the damage she could do.

    Thank you for this short and concise article. You are right in characterizing the emergent church as a group that does purport to follow Jesus yet it doesn't esteem His doctrines. Behind the back of the emergent is the organised intent to hide the Scriptures from the masses to make deception easy. The doctrine of Christ must be upheld for in them we grow in His grace.


    I know this is true... but kindly explain the role of Christian living as they follow Christ. At least there is a balance of both.Maybe at this point they need more clarification. For we are saved to do goodworks Eph.2:10

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